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Facebook will decide which videos you should watch, whether you like it or not

Facebook is altering its video ranking algorithm on its platform to combat unoriginal content, enforcing new metrics that will decide what appears on your newsfeed.

Originality, viewership and loyalty will set videos apart The changes will affect video distribution across Facebook, including News Feed, Facebook Watch and the “More Videos” recommendations This is the latest effort by Facebook to help fight misinformation and fake news on the platform

Facebook is taking a page out of YouTube’s book and tweaking its video algorithm. With YouTube, however, each controversial algorithm tweak often comes with an outcry from the content creator community, as these users witness their viewership become affected and their monetization dwindle as collateral. 

While this does not seem to be the case with Facebook just yet, this algorithm change will have a significant impact on your Newsfeed and the videos that appear on it. For one, the algorithm will give more weight to certain videos over others.

Supposedly, content creators will be rewarded, separating their original content from the clutter of memes, re-uploaded videos, and general visual noise we’ve come to expect from the platform. 

Facebook knows what’s best for you (again)

In their blog post, Facebook briefly discussed how videos will be judged and ranked. 

“We want to help talented video creators find their audience and build profitable video businesses on Facebook. We want to help media companies — whether large, small, global, or local — continue their invaluable work. And above all, we want to help people on Facebook discover great videos and build relationships with the creators and publishers that matter to them,” the blog post read. 

As such, Facebook is doling out updates to its video ranking system over the following months. The changes will affect video distribution across Facebook, including News Feed, Facebook Watch and the “More Videos” recommendations.

Reemphasizing originality, loyalty and viewership  

In essence, the algorithm changes “will benefit video distribution for Pages that create original content people want to watch and come back to.”

Below are the 3 criteria Facebook will rank videos based on:

-Loyalty and intent: Taking into consideration intent and repeat viewership, Facebook will add more weight in ranking to videos that people seek out and return to week after week.

-Video and viewing duration: Facebook has long sought for videos to capture viewers’ attention for at least one minute. The company will add more weight in ranking to videos that keep people engaged, especially on videos that are at least three minutes long.

-Originality: Facebook announced last year that they would limit distribution for unoriginal or repurposed content from other sources with limited or immaterial added value — as well as demote video content from Pages that are involved in sharing schemes. “We will more strongly limit distribution and monetization for this kind of content,” the post said. 

What will this mean for your newsfeed?

Expect more food recipe videos, more news video reports, and more cat videos. 

Table by Tubular

Table by Tubular

Statistics by video marketing firm Tubular illustrate common trends among the best performing Facebook creators, and things like food, animals and funny scenarios make the bulk of the most viewed content. In a sense, those creators already on top will only be further rewarded. With their numbers, loyal viewers and volume of posts, they are coming out of this as the biggest winners.

In the general scheme of things, Facebook engagement numbers might suffer at first. I’ve always been baffled by the amount of times I’ve stumbled on a video that’s been unethically reuploaded and its views (often in the hundreds of thousands) inadvertently siphoned from its original creators. This will mean creators should now get the engagement rates they deserve. 

According to Facebook’s guidelines, video content violates their limited originality policy if it is:

-Content that your Page had no role in creating or editing.

-Minimally edited content that does not meaningfully alter its source.

-Compilations of third party videos.

-Content that was uploaded somewhere else first that your Page had little to no role in creating.

As such, expect way less of this kind of low-effort, bootlegged content. 

The Newsfeed remains a minefield of hate and fake news, however

Facebook has had a tough few years struggling with privacy concerns, misinformation on its platform, and news manipulation (think back to the Cambridge Analytica scandal). 

As a result, last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had announced an effort to refocus Facebook’s newsfeed. He wanted to make it about the users once more, and less about the businesses sharing on the platform.   

This eventually led to echo chambers (political or otherwise), even more misinformation as users hoaxed by fake news would share them with friends, and other issues. There was no feasible solution in sight for the company. 

Finally, last month, “the company rolled out a slew of announcements that aim to promote more trustworthy news sources, tamp down on Groups that spread misinformation, and give the public more insight into how Facebook crafts its content policies writ large,” Wired reported at the time. 

“The changes, broadly, seek to nurture what Facebook refers to as “integrity” on the platform at a time when many users, regulators, and politicians have come to see Facebook and its other apps—WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger—as the chief propagators of propaganda, hate speech, and fake news online,” the news site continued. 

YouTube adopted a similar strategy this year, attempting to curb the spread of “conspiracy” videos on its platform. 

Will these measures work? 

It remains unclear at the time. What’s clear, however, is that something should be done about the mass of misinformation online. Whether mega corporations like Facebook should serve as the media gatekeepers, deciding what users should or shouldn’t watch or read, is an entirely different argument.